Feminist Porn: An Option for Women

Feminists denounce the increasing eroticization of violence in classic pornos. Will feminist pornography and its alternatives succeed in giving women back their power and in carving out a place in a resolutely masculine industry? A pair of sexologists shed some light on this issue.

By Véronique Trudeau

Julie Lavigne, a professor in the Sexology Department of UQAM and a researcher, is particularly interested in how women are represented in feminist, lesbian and queer pornography.

Mahault Albarracin (M.A.), CTO, PhD in cognitic computer science and a sexologist, is one of the cofounders of Sexualis, a Québec web platform that offers an array of resources on sexology.

What distinguishes classic pornos from feminist pornos?

J. L.: The productions made by and for women come from a desire to create pornography they can identify with, that bears witness to their needs and desires. It’s a form or reappropriation of this typically masculine space that doesn’t consider a woman as a plausible spectator. Feminist porno also wants to push the boundaries of political and social norms. For a decade now I’ve also observed that the notion of consent onscreen is more marked. Some productions also provide access to a “making of” film, which gives a perspective on the behind-the-scenes, where these women work.

M. A.: I’d compare mainstream pornography to a big sugary candy. The accent is on a few aspects of sexuality only, whereas feminist pornography offers many flavors. There’s a more varied access to the body, and different ways to experience one’s sexuality.

Can women emancipate themselves on the screen in classic XXX productions?

M. A.: One of the problems of pornography done by and for men remains the objectification of the woman. They emphasize very narrow shots of her face and of certain parts of her body. Traditionally, the sexuality conveyed in the media tends to place the woman in a more passive role (she receives and serves the pleasure of the other), whereas the man takes a more active role (he dominates and goes off on a conquest of his own pleasure). A consumer that watches a lot of this type of porno may come to forget the “subject” (the woman) behind the “object” (her body).

But mainstream porno also presents a lot of what we could call “men-penises.”We only rarely see their head, so that the male spectator could identify with the action and experience things by proxy. The camera mostly shoots the torso and the genital organs. The men aren’t very humanized either, but they remain active characters in the story.

Is the eroticization of violence also present in feminist pornos as much as in classic pornos?

M. A.: There is no eroticization of violence in feminist pornos. There may be some BDSM practices, but they are consensual. The eroticization of violence is complex and should be nuanced. Does the consumer identify with an image that we call violent, in whole or in part? If so, how? Something as mild as a kiss can be seen as violent if it’s not desired.

Despite all that’s said about it, classic pornos continue to be the most widely watched by both sexes. Will offering “by women, for women” pornos have an impact on the adult entertainment industry?

J. L.: Though it may have only a marginal impact, the contribution made by feminist pornography is necessary in order to show the diverse ways in which women experience sex. But queer, lesbian, independent, artistic and other feminist productions are far less well known, even ignored. Quite often people don’t even know that they exist. Up until now, these types of productions are mostly watched by women.   

First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 29, no. 5, juin (June) 2021, page 25.

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